PDCA cycle for continuous improvement: what it is and how to adopt it

Companies need to be competitive and productive to be able to achieve their objectives within the current environment with a high level of digitalization and a globalized market . Continuous improvement is the best philosophy for the company to enter into a dynamic process where it is not satisfied with its operation and results and always seeks new ways to be more agile and efficient.     

The PDCA cycle is a four-step methodology that adapts very well to this need to seek continuous improvement in current companies and organizations .   

What is the PDCA cycle


The acronym PDCA comes from Plan , Do , Check and Act which means plan, do, check and act. The PDCA cycle consists of a four-step system that seeks to implement continuous improvement in the management and operation of a company.        

This methodology was created in 1939 by physicist Walter Andrew Shewhart and popularized in the 1950s by Professor Edward Deming , which is why it is also known as the Deming wheel. 

In quality management systems and ISO certifications, the PDCA cycle is presented as one of the most popular and efficient methodologies to achieve continuous improvement and increase quality levels in a company.

What is the PCDCA cycle and what is its purpose?

The PDCA cycle is made up of 4 cyclic stages, where at the end of the last phase, the system restarts, starting again with the first one. Each time a cycle is repeated, the different processes of each stage are re-evaluated to detect errors and apply improvements.  

Being a repetitive cycle where it is always necessary to control and verify all processes and tasks, an ideal dynamic is achieved to promote continuous improvement within an organization or company.  

How can we implement the PDCA cycle

To implement the continuous improvement cycle proposed by the PDCA methodology, it is necessary to carry out the following steps:

  • 1. Plan : Planning must be established for the different tasks and processes carried out in the company to seek improvements and optimizations (new technologies, process simplification, agile methodologies , and similar). 

  • 2. Do:  In this phase, all the actions defined in the planning are carried out, carrying out tests before implementing the changes definitively.

  • 3. Verify:  It consists of a testing period where the operation of the implemented changes is monitored to see if they achieve their objectives. If expected expectations are not met, corrections can be applied.

  • 4. Act:  It is the last step where it is decided whether the improvements are implemented. To do this, the new results obtained must be compared with the previous ones, in order to decide whether it is profitable or beneficial to permanently introduce the improvement.

By applying the PDCA methodology, a company can implement a continuous improvement system that guarantees high levels of quality, both in its products, as well as in its services and processes.  

The PDCA cycle has reached a high level of importance in the business world, and proof of this is that the ISO 9001 quality standard expressly mentions it to implement continuous improvement of the quality management system.